Words by Tess Becker
Texas is one of the last states in the US that allows oyster farming, and those programs, set up around 3 years ago, may serve to save the state’s oyster industry amid climate change.
Texas oysters have already been suffering in recent years, falling victim to drought, flood events, and hurricanes, all things that are exacerbated by human-caused climate change. A 2021 article by Houston Public Media highlighted just how dire things were getting for oyster fishers, with many of the oyster-catching regions closing down for sustainability reasons.
The oyster farms offer a more sustainable alternative while still providing many of the environmental benefits that wild oysters do like water purification.
“The creation of an oyster mariculture program is generating a new industry in Texas, which may have a positive impact on businesses and local economy,” Texas Parks and Wildlife writes. “It is generally accepted that oyster mariculture has a net benefit for the environment as the cultured oysters offer the same ecosystem services as wild oysters. Oysters have the ability to filter up to 50 gallons of water per day per oyster (for a 3” oyster), thus help with water quality in bays.”
The oysters themselves are maricultured and the farms don’t take up much space.
“Program regulations require that farms are sited away from sensitive habitats such as seagrasses, oysters, and bird rookeries,” Texas Parks and Wildlife said. “There are also stringent requirements for securing and maintaining equipment in the water to minimize debris problems. There is minimal risk to natural oyster populations in terms of genetics and disease due to strict biosecurity protocols.”
The farms are beginning some of their first harvests and hope to expand in the future, providing jobs for people in Texas, cleaning the water, and sustainably sourcing oysters.
Next time you're in Texas make sure to give them a try!